"The Affluent Effect": Consumers In A Digital World

One-fifth of U.S. households, 24 million to be exact, holds approximately 60% of total U.S. household wealth and 70% of total U.S. consumer wealth. Defined by Ipsos Mendelsohn as the "affluents," these 24 million households have an annualized income of $100,000 or more. This group is two times more likely to buy consumer products and services and when they do, they spend over three times as much as their less economically fortunate counterparts.

What makes affluents particularly intriguing is that despite the current economic uncertainty, research shows that they will likely spend significantly in a number of consumer categories in the next year. That's why the IAB partnered with Ipsos Mendelsohn to conduct the first custom study of affluents and digital media. The primary objective was to develop initial insights about affluents and their attitudes, awareness and usage of digital media.

What we did not know when we began the work was that our study would be released close to the time other noteworthy studies and papers about the affluents. Clearly, we were onto something and uncovered quite a few gems in our findings.

Affluents embrace technology and digital media including advertising.

In response to a battery of questions about lifestyles and attitudes, affluents shared that in the last decade, their lives have become increasingly intertwined with technology (79%). This holds strongly across age groups within the affluent population including more that 70% of those 65 and older.

Surprisingly, affluents tend to be at last as receptive and responsive to advertising in digital media as the less affluent. Nearly two-thirds of affluents (59%) report taking some kind of action as a result of seeing digital ads in the last six months. Actions include behaviors like clicking, visiting an advertiser website, searching for info about the product or service, becoming a fan or liking on a social networking site, going to a retail location to see/purchase product/service, purchasing the product or service online. Moreover, approximately 60% of 18-64 year old affluents have all taken some kind of action. More than half (53%) of 65+ year olds have taken action in response to a digital ad.

The hardest to reach are the easiest to reach in digital media

Conventional wisdom has been that affluents are the hardest to reach through most media because they use less of it, particularly TV and radio. Print titles and the TV and radio programming that do reach affluents typically command significant CPM premiums. Affluents watch an average of 17.6 hours a week of TV and spend 7.5 hours per week listening to radio while the general population watches 34 hours a week of TV and listens to 16 hours of radio.

However, affluents are the heaviest users of digital media, spending an average of 26.2 hours a week online compared to the general population at 21.7 hours. Digital media have inverted the traditional paradigm. The key takeaway? Brands that seek to reach affluents can find both reach and higher audience composition by investing in digital media.

Expect affluents to share information in return for a better online advertising experience

Relevance, both personal and contextual, consistently comes up in responses to series of questions about online advertising and the elements of it that command attention and draw out positive reactions. Moreover, one-third of affluents, significantly more than the non affluent agree with the statement," I am usually willing to share some information about myself online so that I can get a more customized online experience."

There is a consistently articulated theme in verbatims about wanting both relevant and beautiful ads. One respondent said, "Seduce me ... show me something funny, uplifting, beautiful, intriguing. Invite me to linger, don't interrupt me with flashing lights and hard-sell inanity."

These are profoundly insightful comments for all of us throughout the media and advertising business.

2 comments about ""The Affluent Effect": Consumers In A Digital World ".
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  1. Darrin Stephens from McMann & Tate, August 31, 2011 at 4:05 p.m.

    Among other flaws, this study compares self-reported TV viewing for affluents versus metered viewing for the general population.

    This, you cannot do.

    Self reported viewing to TV is seriously understated versus observed or metered viewing.

  2. Andrew Fischer from Choozle, September 4, 2011 at 7:58 p.m.

    The value of the affluent audience has always been inherent. But it is great to see research that highlights both the digital savviness of the affluent consumer, as well as their receptivity to online marketing. Considering the internet's ability to provide excellent targeting for advertisers, spending online to reach these wealthier consumers yields an excellent marketing ROI. At the RGM Group, we have been working with both affluent focused publishers for over seven years, and our experience has enabled hundreds of discerning advertisers to smartly engage their desired customers. You can view our proprietary affluent focused portal here:, as well as our corporate site here:

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